Saturday, September 13, 2014

Rough field notes. Inklings of hope.

Field notes 

(I suppose this is part of what has been described as autoethnography - experts comments please)

I shall attempt to change tack for this moment (perhaps this will continue? I don't know) in my writing in this space 'Touches of Sense".

It has served its purpose very well as a personal tool of research. I shall come back to this point.

I do not know in what forms this research will continue from now on. These are remains to be seen :-)

There is little doubt, however that I feel the need to take stock of my experience.

I would also here, like to share my questions and my lines of reflection with others.

I am beginning to question a number of concepts and limits to methodology of research, that I perceive as barriers to necessary transformation of education and I would venture societies.

I have been interacting with people spread out around the world (though that terminology itself is to be questionned) in a number of online and offline spaces. I shall attempt to identify and list those spaces.

1) Interior space. Historical Body/Space (note Scollon and Scollon)
Emotional/Spiritual/Cognitive/Body/Cultural/Narrative/Linguistic/Family/Friend/ ( I shall need to develop this further. at a later date). As a result of events and personal stories, it has been necessary for me to conduct psycho-analysis. This was clearly a turning point in my perception of my history and my relationship with 'myself' and others. I have also spent half of my life in a previously 'alien' culture and linguistic environment (France)

As a result of events in which I have been actor, it has been necessary to:

a) Go beyond comfortable emotional/moral/intellectual/experiential/physical limits.

b) Go beyond what I considered constituted my 'identity' - linguistic/cultural/philosphical/ (I shall need to develop this further at a later date)

c) Go beyond what I considered to be 'normality' 'sanity' (I shall need to develop this further at a later date)

2) Professional space (Note Bourdieu, Scollons, Habitus/Historical Spaces/Nexus of discourses/Interaction order)
My choice of 'professional activity' was (like for many) a combination of accident, design, and a response to economic/linguistic/competence constraint.

Coming from a family in which 'normality' was dealing with questions of 'life and death' (being child of generations of clergymen) and from a family in which there was 'vast inherited economic' wealth but no professional activity to mention, it was extremely difficult for me to make any sensible decisions as to how I wanted to 'earn my living' or that matter lead my life. My only sensible reaction to dissonance was to go towards a form of 'tabular rasa' - starting form scratch.(of course that in itself is a fiction).

I was rather marginalised in my proposed peer-groups being the 'youngest child' ,an unbeliever, a boy who lived in a big house in a mining town, or a boy coming from a relatively poor family and son of a clergyman in an expensive and distant private school. Identification with others was difficult. (I am aware that I share these difficulties with many others)

Academia, has been until very recently a mystery for me. I was able to float through university without a great deal of thought, I frankly had no idea what was going on.

I have in my life been witness to one thesis presentation (last year) which appeared to me to be fascinating but rather unattractive theatre.

I found little reason to engage with the form of 'learning' that I was presented with at school or at university.

I simply fulfilled minimum requirements until I managed to do what I was passionate about - research and story-telling et al. (to be detailed perhaps at some later date)

I was disappointed at the lack of 'adventure', the lack of 'ambition' of researchers that I met indeed it would be true to say they were not I felt an exception.

I did not find any university academic to identify with.

They appeared to me to be extraordinarily dull.

Coming from my social background, I was disconnected from any 'career' mapping, never have had any real ambition apart from to play, and pay the bills and to manage to do what I have seen of interest to finance - travel, children's education, clothes etc.

My relationship with money is one rather of boredom, I find the obsession with financial gain and acquisition of objects to mark 'social success' of little interest if entertaining at times. I can quite appreciate beautiful objects but I retain a mostly critical relationship with acquisition and accumulation.

Coming to English language teaching after miscelleaneous and diverse 'professional' experience, (note perhaps to be extended at later date) I discovered an environment in which for  a while I could play with satisfaction.

I enjoy experimenting and reflecting on my experience. I have always observed from a distance and played different roles to see how one or another role would have an effect on the environment in which I have found myself.

I have noted with interest the various 'given identities' that I have been tagged with.

'serious' 'fun' 'geek' 'dangerous maverick' 'difficult to work with' 'trouble-maker' 'insane (often that one' 'Cantonaesque (NB Eric Cantona see Wikipedia) 'elecron libre' 'fonctionnaire d'etat' (teacher employed permanently by state) 'associate member of research laboratory'.

I have noted how the introduction of particular technology has had a disruptive effect on the teaching environment. I have been fascinated by these evolutions. This curiosity has driven research and experiment.

As a result of diverse professional experience/personal experience I have been able to increase my resilience, and my distance from the professional environment in a way that some people appear unable, or unwilling. It is clear that I share neither the values, nor the competences, nor the fears, nor the perspective of many of the people with whom I have worked with. There have been a few notable exceptions. (references)

I have embarked on an experiment to transform education from within, from my own classroom.
(See references)

I have found great help in considering the environment in which I act through a number of lenses:

(Notes: note refs)
a) A Complex system
b) Ecologies
c) Narrative spaces
d) Nexus of discourses -(ref - Scollon and Scollon)
e) Through Social Network theory
f) Through rhizomatic metaphor - though I feel that this is reaching its limits (to be investigated)

Clearly such reflection is having a major effect on my action choice.

3) Onlining learning spaces 2014
(Notes - Downes/Siemens/Cormier/Stewart/et al to be continued Scollons again/Activity Theory Engstrom/Research areas to be defined and not yet done to my knowledge See all lenses above)
I shall fast forward to my recent online learning experience.(note intermediary online experiences have already been documented elsewhere). In January 2014 I signed up to participate in Dave Cormier's Rhizomatic Learning Course (see blog posts tagged #rhizo14, pinterest curation, twitter (archive - to constitute), various interactions - blog comments, twitter maps (cf Hawksey) - to be detailed at later date). I then played in CLMOOC (refs to add) and am currently participating in Connected Courses (refs to add).

I would like here to note a number of points to investigate:

1) There appears to be resistance of certain researchers to question their methodology, their role as researchers, the objectives of research and relationships with questions of
a) recognition
b) authorship
c) status
d) means of representing dynamic emergent complex systems
e) cultural domination in a globalised 'economy'
f) assumptions of supremacy of 'scientific method'
(to be extended/detailed at later date)

2) We appear to be reaching the limits of terms/concepts to describe and to imagine learning in a globally networked environment (notes to detail and review)
a) Spacial/temporal issues to conceive networked learning
b) Lack of distance from cultural frames of perception to make sense of globally networked learning. (Note I have been looking at Gestalt theory as a means to partly explain such problems)(points for reflection here)
c) Lack of distance as concerns 'technological framing' (this includes language/semiotic environments(see Mcluhan/Blommaert et al)
d) Problems of distributed and disassociated identity (to investigate and reflect on)
e) Concepts such as 'class' 'institution' 'course' seem more and more hazardous.
f) Learning 'management' appears absurd.

3) We appear to be stuck in an obsolete politico/economic system whose deficiencies are being amplified by globally connected technology. The results of this on an ecological level and human level are dramatic.
a) Relationships between man and machine to address urgently.
b) Relationships between corporations/governments/finance to address urgently
c) Relationships between ..(to be continued at later date)
d) Relationships between territory and national boudaries (to be continued)

4) We appear to have great difficulty in recognising healthy humans from unhealthy humans.

On a personal level, I have begun to understand why I have been marginalised and aggressed as my discourse/behaviour is for many intensely destabilising and threatening.

We appear to have great difficulty in recognising and dissociating 'manipulative' from 'reciprocal' relationships (Note discussion with KW Hamon and Terry Elliot - ref) which respect diversity and complexity.

5) I have cause for hope.

a) I have finally met individualswho appear to question assumptions of what constitutes the differences between:
  • religion and spirituality
  • freedom and freedom to exploit
  • education and manipulation 
  • learning and assimilation of models
  • dialogue and parallel monologue
  • research and academia
b) I am finally meeting individuals who appear to question assumptions of how to express 'knowledge' , its 'value', 'artificial separations between spheres of activity' notably the following:

  • Art and science
  • Text and other media of communication
  • Immediacy and reification
  • Individuals and communities and networks
  • (to be added at a later date)
  • Flow and distance
  • Emotion and reason
c) I am beginning to experience apparent transformations in:

  • My own perception of my identities
  • My own trust of my action, reflection, and means of expression
  • My level of competences (to detail)
  • My relationships with academia/research/education/other spheres
  • My lenses of analysis and vision of future transformation of education and social environments.
These 'field notes' are shared in the hope that their perspective will enable me and others to further advance in this process towards advancing critically within a chaotic environment for my own and others' benefit.'

I note that 'poetic' 'artistic' expressions as evidenced in this space are a means of research in what constitutes unknown spaces which would be for me impossible with other more traditional methodology.

It is extremely difficult when venturing beyond what one has been used to, to map new territorities.

This venture can only be done in association with my fellow adventurers and in no way can this current or previous pieces of expression/reflection be realistically limited to being the voice of an author by the given name:

Simon Ensor.

I have the strong impression that I am beginning to identify with unauthors who have gone by the given names of Deleuze and Guattari.

PS. Thank you for your patience. I feel that is quite enough neurone crunching for one evening.

Interestingly, 'Enso' pieces (of which I do not claim particular authorship - rather editing-rights) are both more enjoyable, and much less tiring.

My only hope from these field notes is that I shall take control of at least a part of this process of research. 

Frankly, this work/play at times is draining.

To be continued.

Note to self. attempt to define 6D learning.

Note to self.  I shall add bold, refs etc etc when I have had a break.

PS. To those doubting my sanity, please don't forget to include doubt as concerns your own frames of reference.  If there are any fears for me in this process.

Please allay your fears, I have very good friends who I trust. I am well armed for the journey.

I am fed up now. I shall publish.

Que sera, sera, whatever will be will be etc.
(Football song - note irritating change of genre)

PS Having just see Maha's post. It seems that there is a lot of what I have just done going on.
Am I English/French? etc etc.
Am I me?

Frankly I am fed up with absurd boxes which we put people in.
Yesterday somebody said - ah you must be a buddhist.
For years people grilled me - Are you a Christian?

This is really getting on my nerves this obsession of categorising.
Note I must study Gestalt.

PPS Maha I think we have an article brewing.

PPPS Having written a letter to Jim Groom, reading a comment of Susan Watson and a tweet from Maha, I am feeling more courage and have even edited bits of this.


  1. Oh Simon, dear Simon, I have missed reading your thoughts this week as I have been buried deepy within my own chaotic environs in a public alternative middle school! I am re-emerging today or should I say re-submerging today back into the loveliness of my Connected Learning peers. I loved when you said, "I was able to float through university without a great deal of thought, I frankly had no idea what was going on." Compadre! I thought I was the only one. I loved college but truly had no idea of context or what was going on. It was all a kind of pleasant blur in which I was successful but not exactly sure why.
    --I am suspicious of any researcher not willing to "question their own methodology."
    --I am always somewhat nauseated by conspicuous consumption and material acquisition........
    --What is 6D learning?
    --Why has rhizomatic learning reached its limits?
    --What are your fears?
    I love this disclaimer - "In no way can this current or previous pieces of expression/reflection be realistically limited to being the voice of an author by the given name:Simon Ensor."
    I do not fear for your sanity.

  2. "I have cause for hope." -- I am tattooing that to the inside of my head so I can remember it when things go rough and seem on the verge of falling apart, or when I am feeling so frustrated by the unfolding of things around me, particularly when it comes to educational systems. We have cause for hope. Always.

  3. It seems we have room to work, then. Nice.